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Video Game / Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory

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Melodies and memories hold the secret of his final plan.

The thirteenth (excluding remakes) game in Disney and Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts series, Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is a Rhythm Game Spin-Off that continues the story from Kingdom Hearts III and its DLC Re Mind, and is the first major release in the second Myth Arc of the series, the Lost Master Arc. It is co-developed by indieszero, the team responsible for Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.

One year has passed since the Final Battle with Master Xehanort, with the χ-blade relinquished and Kingdom Hearts locked away once more. But while peace in the Realm of Light has been secured, it came at a terrible cost: the disappearance of Sora, who sacrificed himself to revive Kairi after Xehanort seemingly destroyed her. Now, while Sora's allies scour through different worlds for any leads to his whereabouts they can find, Kairi has entered a deep slumber to search for answers within her own heart, reflecting on journeys of times past. Will this trip down memory lane yield clues to reuniting with Sora? Or could it lead to something even more?

This Rhythm Game is set in Kairi's memories of Sora (and others) as they play each stage from past events in the form of rhythm stages. Players can relive past scenes and even unlock new cinematic cutscenes that set the stage for the next game.

The game was released for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One in Japan on November 11, 2020 and November 13, 2020 for North America and Europe. A Windows PC version was released via the Epic Games Store on March 30, 2021, alongside Windows PC versions of the previous Kingdom Hearts installments.

Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: As the game functions as a Recap Episode for the Dark Seeker Saga, the majority of the game's cutscenes feature Kairi narrating over montages of cutscenes from all of the previous games, with only the most important plot points left in and everything else cut out. This means that all of the games can be summarized within a handful of cutscenes at most, totaling just under 30 minutes in runtime.
  • Adapted Out:
    • As a Recap Episode, nearly every Disney world in the series is revisited in this game; the ones that are missing are Deep Jungle from the original Kingdom Hearts, the Hundred Acre Wood, the worlds relating to Pirates of the Caribbean (Port Royal from II and The Caribbean from III), Symphony of Sorcery from Dream Drop Distance and the four Wreck-It Ralph worlds from Union χ.
    • Deep Jungle is omitted, as it has been from all subsequent Kingdom Hearts adaptations, allegedly due to issues with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. The Ralph worlds are missing because Union χ as a whole is Out of Focus as stated below. Symphony of Sorcery's absence is likely due its soundtrack being only public domain music ill-fitting the theme of Kingdom Hearts music (with some Disney and other Square Enix games thrown in). The “Evil Grounds” in End of the World that depicted Bald Mountain, after its displacement from Symphony of Sorcery into that world, are also absent from the End of the World levels.
    • While Halloween Town, Space Paranoids and The Grid are playable worlds, no actual character from The Nightmare Before Christmas and the TRON series makes an appearance, whether as a party member, in the recap clip shows and Memory Dive music videos (which employ clips that show only Sora, Donald, Goofy and Riku in those worlds), or in the collectible cards.
    • Olympus Coliseum is included twice in the game to reflect its appearances in the first game and II, but understandably its depiction in Birth by Sleep is not playable since it didn’t include any original themes. The Kingdom Hearts III iteration of the world, Olympus, only appears in recap cutscenes.
    • No Final Fantasy characters who have served as party members appear in gameplay, with Hercules remaining the default party member in Olympus Coliseum in lieu of Cloud, Auron or Zack.
  • All There in the Manual: While the functions of HP and Defense are pretty obvious, the game doesn't immediately explain what the purpose of the Strength stat is, since all enemies except multi-attack enemies and bosses die instantly when hitting a note. What Strength actually does is to increase the chance of stunning a multi-attack enemy, which renders it harmless even if the note is missed and grants a Rhythm Point bonus at the end of the song. The only place where the game bothers telling you this is buried in an optional tutorial screen that you usually won't have a reason to ever look at.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • World Tour is pretty lax on difficulty; only about half the Stars in the game are needed to clear World Tour, and the vast majority of the Missions can be done on any difficulty level. Players who are less experienced with rhythm games can thus breeze through World Tour at their leisure without encountering a big Beef Gate.
    • The platinum trophy's requirements are far less than 100% Completion, only requiring flawless runs of barely a third of the game's songs, meaning players unused to rhythm games won't have their platinum streak ruined by the genre shift.
    • If you can't or don't want to play online, you can play COM Battle, which pits you against bots. While the bots can get challenging later on, you have the option to use items, and you have the added bonus of being able to preview and obtain Station of Awakening Cards that are otherwise harder to find elsewhere.
    • If you're missing some Cards, you have the option to use material to Synthesize cards, essentially allowing you to gamble for Cards you're looking for. A later unlockable option for the Moogle allows you to even pick from specific categories for Cards, further reducing the amount of luck needed to avoid the Last Lousy Point.
    • You can press X/Triangle on a material in the Synthesis Menu and the game will tell you exactly where to find it and its drop rate. It even offers to take you to its respective Synthesis recipe or to the Track Selection directly so you can play the song for it.
    • Duplicate Cards still count towards Collection Lv. EXP, meaning that you don't actually need to collect every unique card to get all the bonuses.
  • Arrange Mode: In addition to the standard gameplay mode, there are two additional play modes called One Button and Performer: the former is essentially an "easy" mode, where all action is performed with a single button and gliding (and ally attack during gliding) is done automatically; the latter adds additional button prompts to stages highlighted in purple; while Performer button prompts aren't required and you won't lose HP for missing them, the game keeps track of Performer Mode high scores separately from standard high scores.
  • Art Shift:
    • Gameplay is in the PS2 graphics engine that the series has used for most of its history, while cutscenes are in the HD graphics engine used since 0.2.
    • During both the Memory Dive and Boss segments of the Final World stage in World Tour, the game uses the graphical style of the rest of the game, with new PS2-style models for both Kairi and Sora's Kingdom Hearts III designs, while the cutscenes still use the HD art style.
  • Ascended Extra: The Fairy Godmother, of all characters, tells Riku and Kairi about the "third key" that will help them find Sora, and brings them to the Final World where they meet said "third key." This is quite the step up from her past appearances - before, she was mainly relegated to her homeworld (until it was destroyed) and had little role in the grand plot.
  • Automatic New Game: Immediately after the opening logos, a Memory Dive stage of "Simple and Clean" is played with no menus or tutorials beforehand.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Sora pulls this in the Final World just as Xehanort's apparition was about to land the final blow on Kairi.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: About 3/4 of the way into World Tour, a "secret" area of the map appears, consisting of "One-Winged Angel", "The Other Promise", and "Rage Awakened". Unlocking this region requires more Stars than needed to beat the game, and the Missions here are significantly more challenging than those found elsewhere in World Tour.
  • Call-Back:
    • The box art evokes that of the Kingdom Hearts: All-In-One Compilation Rerelease, except this time it's Kairi sitting in Sora's throne and the images are replaced with significant scenes from previous games that have something to do with Kairi (except 358/2 Days and Birth by Sleep).
    • One of the playable segments of The Final World involves Kairi collecting the flower-shaped fragments of her heart, similar to how Sora had to do so to restore her in Re MIND.
    • Kairi's fight scene against Xehanort has her abusing the Summon to Hand ability of the Keyblade multiple times to break out of her opponent's grabs, replicating how Sora used it against Roxas in II.
    • Ansem the Wise is the first to hit on the idea that Sora is trapped in a fictional world, likely due to his own experience creating the digital Twilight Town that he trapped Roxas in during the prologue of II.
    • When Mickey hears that Riku has ventured to Quadratum alone, he immediately tries to run off to go accompany him. He has to be pinned down by Donald and Goofy and chastised by Yen Sid for trying to act so rashly. Previous games such as Birth by Sleep, 0.2, and III have demonstrated that when Mickey wants to help someone, he can blindly throw himself into danger to do it.
    • Yen Sid notes that Xehanort had been looking for a way to travel to Quadratum during his life. He may have ultimately succeded in finding it, given that in the Toy Box world in III Young Xehanort is able to temporarily send Sora there when he tries to prevent him from abducting Buzz.
  • Can't Catch Up: Although Kairi fares much better and longer against the copy of Master Xehanort in her heart than she did against Terra-Xehanort and Xemnas in the Keyblade War, even gaining his compliments and catching him by surprise, she's ultimately still unable to get the upper hand on her own and needs Sora to come to her rescue once again. It's due to this that she realizes just how much experience she still lacks, which pushes her to resume her training with Aqua until she can truly fight by Sora and Riku's side.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In addition to being a Guest-Star Party Member during the tracks from his world from II, Beast also serves as one during the tracks at Hollow Bastion, referencing his status as such during that level in the first game.
    • A full chain on "Vector to the Heavens" is 358 notes. The track also ends in the air above the train station, where Roxas fought Xion's final form.
    • The note chart for "Sinister Shadows" from II is filled almost exclusively with the Armored Knight and Surveillance Robot Heartless. This is a reference to the Battle of the 1000 Heartless, which similarly consisted entirely of those two Heartless.
    • Similarly, the charts for "Another Side" and "Another Side -Battle Ver.-" feature a lot of Neoshadows, referencing the original "Another Side, Another Story" cinematic where Roxas and Riku plow through hordes of them. The scenery also has a higher-contrast palette with desaturated colors compared to the standard World that Never Was track in a more stylistic nod to the scene.
    • "Rise of the Union" opens with a swarm of Shadows coming from behind before taking their place on the track, since the song plays during the final Demon Tide fight in III.
    • The map for World Tour is stylized exactly like the world map in II and Birth by Sleep, including the boost function for the Gummi Ship.
    • Mulan's Friend Orbs feature the Morale Orb design from Kingdom Hearts II and use the same pick-up sound effect when hit.
    • Several to Chain of Memories:
      • Some of the collectible cards, including Character, Enemy, and Keyblade Cards, have a similar "crown"-shape design to the Chain of Memories cards.
      • The two card rarities are Gold and Platinum, just like how Re:Chain of Memories had a Gold Card and a Platinum Card.
      • The Fight Woosh for Boss Tracks emulates the one used in Chain of Memories and Re:Chain of Memories, with a beamed eighth note standing in for the Kingdom Hearts heart symbol.
      • The sound effect for hold notes in Boss Tracks is the deck reloading sound from Re:Chain of Memories.
  • Cutting the Knot: In III, the only way someone can go to The Final World is to have previously died in some way, with only the will of their heart allowing them to persist in limbo. This makes the locale extremely difficult to get to under normal circumstances, with only Sora and Kairi successfully entering and leaving. During the game's ending, the Fairy Godmother, who wields Wrong Context Magic, is able to simply warp Riku and Kairi to The Final World, no strings attached.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: During standard battle tracks, the game features a gliding mechanic as its take on hold notes. However, unlike normal Kingdom Hearts, where you must press the Jump button then press and hold Jump again while in mid-air to glide, gliding in this game functions like a typical rhythm game hold note where the player simply presses and holds the button once. If you're not used to rhythm games but play a lot of Kingdom Hearts this may take some getting used to as a result.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Downplayed. The game's story focuses on Kairi's search for clues to where Sora went, but the events are simply told in a dream world of her creation where every other character—Sora, Riku, Roxas, Aqua, and their respective parties—does all the action. The most she accomplishes happens at the end of the game, which consists of her gliding through a dream version of the Final World, recalling her memories of Terra-Xehanort, collecting pieces of her own heart, and facing off against an illusion of Master Xehanort, the last of which sees Sora taking over her body to fight in her place.
  • Double Standard: Kairi decides against joining Riku in going to find Sora in Quadratum due to her lack of experience as a Keyblade wielder, even though Sora and Riku had little experience back when they traveled through unknown worlds back in Kingdom Hearts. That said, Sora and Riku's involvement in the first game was largely by lack of choice; Kairi, having the actual option to train and gaining experience before being thrust into an unknown world, chooses to err on the side of caution.
  • Eldritch Location: It is revealed that Quadratum — the Skyscraper City from the teaser in III — is a world from "unreality", a fictional world unlike any other world established in the Kingdom Hearts canon (including the Realms of Light, Dark, In-between, Memories, Dreams and Data). The only way anyone can access it is through The Final World (The Nameless Star having come from Quadratum) and Yen Sid implies that this was where the original Keyblade Masters were hiding out all this time and that Master Xehanort eventually figured this out, implying that it is a Place Beyond Time.
  • Excuse Plot: This game has by far the lowest Story to Gameplay Ratio in the entire series. The vast majority of the story mode is a Recap Episode used to justify the game's real selling point: a Rhythm Game with Kingdom Hearts music. While there is a more substantial story about Kairi searching through her memories to find out where Sora disappeared to, it isn't so much as hinted at until the very end of the game.
  • Final Boss: The ending of the game sees Sora remotely take control of Kairi’s body in order to defeat an apparition of Master Xehanort constructed by her memories.
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning: Each of the team leaders uses a different third-level spell on distant enemies. Sora uses Thundaga, Roxas uses Firaga, and Aqua uses Blizzaga. The exception is Riku, who uses Dark Firaga.
  • Framing Device: Kairi's memories are used as the narrative for the Recap Episode clip shows and the explanation for the rhythm game revisiting The Stations of the Canon. The heroes hope that doing this will give them a clue as to where Sora is. It does, just not in the way they expected. A memory apparition of Master Xehanort reveals where Sora is.
  • Genre Shift: A particularly strange one as Melody of Memory is marketed as a sequel to Kingdom Hearts III and thus places it as a main game, but ditches the Action RPG gameplay completely for a Theatrhythm Final Fantasy-style RPG Elements Rhythm Game.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: This game features its own version of Theatrhythm's Collect-a-cards, allowing players to look at key art, stills from iconic cutscenes, Station of Awakening frames, and more. There are over 850 unique cards, and every card comes in two rarities, Gold and Platinumnote , doubling that to over 1700 cards to collect.
  • Guest-Star Party Member:
    • Hercules, Aladdin, Ariel, Peter, Beast, Mulan, Simba, or Stitch take the place of one of your party members when playing songs from their respective worlds for the first time. While they're in the party, Friend Orbs will appear in place of some enemies, and will provide bonus Rhythm Points when hit. Disney characters go away after the first clear, however and won't return until you've cleared it again every five times.
    • Using a Summoning Star adds King Mickey to the party for the duration of the song. Mickey will jump in front and strike enemies with rainbow targeting markers, granting a Rhythm Point bonus, and will automatically heal the party once if their HP reaches 0.
  • Interface Screw: Similarly to Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, the Versus Battle mode allows players to inflict various "tricks" on each other, such as enemies splattering against the screen or becoming invisible.
  • Interface Spoiler: An attempt at an aversion with the Brutal Bonus Level songs, which don't appear on the world map at all until either Birth by Sleep or 3D are fully cleared. Their Stars are also not marked on the UI and aren't counted towards the total until they appear. However, Proficards still show the full 354 Star total for Mission completion rate, which can tip some players off if they look very closely.
  • Item Crafting: The game features a simplified version of the Kingdom Hearts Synthesis mechanic, where materials that are semi-randomly obtained from cleared songs can be taken to the Moogle in the Team Menu to craft various items such as consumables, new songs, and ProfiCard icons. Synthesizing grants the Moogle EXP, and when it levels up (up to Lv. 8) new items are unlocked.
  • Marathon Level:
    • Memory Dive tracks tend to be significantly longer than either Field or Boss songs.
    • The final stage of World Tour, The Final World. Before entering it, you are warned that you will not be able to save until you finish everything in it. It consists of two Memory Dive stages, one Boss stage, and all-new cutscenes that reveal Kairi's origin story.
  • Meaningful Name: The world Sora ended up in, Quadratum, gets its name from the Latin word for 'square.'
  • Minigame Credits: The credits are a Memory Dive stage, so you can play along with the music.
  • Musical Nod: The conversation with the Nameless Star, in which she discusses Quadratum, has the piano part of Yozora's boss battle theme, "Nachtflügel".
  • My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: Kairi gets her ass kicked by Master Xehanort's apparition, and she ultimately decides she needs to undergo further training so she can better help her friends.
  • No Antagonist: In a series first, the game has no real antagonist to speak of, due to the game's nature as a Recap Episode and coda to the Dark Seeker Saga. Master Xehanort's shadow continues to loom after death, but the main conflict remains Kairi's search for Sora. While Xehanort does show up as the Final Boss, it's only as an apparition created by Kairi's heart, and his presence isn't too large in a game already bare-bones on new plotlines.
  • New Work, Recycled Graphics: The gameplay once again reuses the HD versions of the PS2 models, except now it's even weirder because all of the post-III scenes use the graphical style of III.
  • Oddball in the Series: A Rhythm Game in an Action RPG series. It doesn't get much odder than that.
  • Only One Save File: There's only auto-saves which have only one slot.
  • Out of Focus:
    • Union χ is mostly ignored in terms of content. Scenes from the game as well as Back Cover appear as collectible cards and concepts from it are briefly alluded to during Kairi's recap, but the game doesn't appear as a playable segment in World Tour and no original songs from it are featured.
    • Kairi only receives focus in the final 20 minutes of the game despite supposedly being the game's central character. For most of the game, she is merely the disembodied narrator of the series recap.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Quadratum, the world where Sora is, is "neither light nor dark" according to Xehanort. Ansem the Wise theorizes that it is literally outside their reality, an "unreality".
  • P.O.V. Cam:
    • Most of the portraits on the cover artwork are from Kairi's perspective from the end of a previous game.
      • The first portrait of Sora in the top row is when he was calling out to her (his voice not heard by the player) as Kairi was returned to the Destiny Islands after Kingdom Hearts was sealed at the end of the first game.
      • To his right, we have Donald and Goofy after their reunion with Sora after Xemnas's defeat as they looked up at Kairi with Sora. The middle portrait of the second row is Sora smiling with his eyes closed during the scene.
      • Finally, the bottom right portrait of Sora sitting on the tree trunk at Destiny Islands is sadly the last time Kairi saw Sora before his disappearance, smiling at her one last time.
    • We experience this in-game during a flashback when a young Kairi is first abducted by Xehanort.
  • Point of No Return: Upon selecting Melody of Memory's End, you are warned that the game will not save until you clear the entire world. Notable because said world involves roughly 20 minutes of cutscenes and three separate rhythm game portions all strung together into one big final level.
  • Purple Prose: Terra-Xehanort engages in a ridiculously wordy monologue after sealing Kairi in the Ark explaining his intent to locate a Keyblade wielder using a Princess of Heart and the consequences in the event that said Keyblade wielder is at a world of neither light nor dark. Especially hilarious considering Kairi is a child and likely has no idea what he's on about.
  • Rank Inflation: Ranks start from F and go through D, C, B, A, A+, A++, and A+++. In the Japanese version, the highest three ranks are instead S, SS, and SSS.
  • Recycled Premise: Once more, the topic of using someone else's memories to find clues about someone else's existence is used, albeit this time it isn't done for malicious purposes with awful consequences.
  • Remixed Level: Melody of Memory's levels are made from setpieces from previous games in the series, similar to the rooms in Chain of Memories. The difference is Melody of Memory is creating continuous looping tracks for the Rhythm Game elements to run through rather than individual rooms.
  • The Reveal:
    • Sora is currently trapped in a world on the opposite end of reality, which is also where Yozora and the Nameless Star come from, and to where Keyblade Masters once traveled in ancient times. Also, the city from Verum Rex where Sora and Riku found themselves isn't Shibuya, but called Quadratum.
    • For anybody who had not been privy to the data-mining of Re Mind, the fact that Sora remotely takes control of Kairi's body to fight the apparition of Master Xehanort confirms that the good ending with Sora surviving his battle with Yozora is indeed the canonical ending.
  • Sequel Hook: Riku heads off to find Sora in Quadratum, also hoping to help the Nameless Star in the process. Yen Sid assigns Mickey to look into the ancient Keyblade Masters in Scala ad Caelum, while Donald and Goofy go off to inform everyone in Radiant Garden, the Land of Departure, and Twilight Town of this recent development. And though Kairi would like to go with Riku to Quadratum, they both decide it's best she stay behind and work on her training. Furthermore, Kairi chooses to train under Aqua's tutelage, which Yen Sid agrees is a good idea.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The loading screens show walking sprites of your party members done in the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy style.
    • The world of Verum Rex, Quadratum, is Latin for "square", as in Square Enix.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: The "Memory Dive" segments feature a fully-rendered Sora flying over pre-rendered videos of prominent moments in the series.
  • The Stinger: The cutscene after the credits shows Kairi heading to the Mysterious Tower to inform Yen Sid, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy on the latest developments regarding Sora's whereabouts. Yen Sid tasks Donald and Goofy to relay this to the others so they halt the futile search for Sora, and Mickey to seek more information in Scala ad Caelum. Meanwhile, Kairi decides to train further under Aqua.
  • Story to Gameplay Ratio: Compared to most Kingdom Hearts games where the balance between cutscenes and gameplay is pretty even, Melody of Memory leans a lot more heavily into the gameplay side. There's less than an hour of cutscenes total, half of which is a Recap Episode, while doing everything there is to offer in the game can take much, much longer.
  • Title Drop: All of the Darkened Worlds (except the boss stages) in World Tour feature the word "Melody" in the name in some way. The last world in the game is appropriately titled "Melody of Memory's End", signifying the game's ending and the last of Kairi's memories.
  • Version-Exclusive Content: The Switch version features an exclusive VS. Battle mode called "Free-For-All" that isn't present in the PlayStation or Xbox versions. This mode allows up to 8 players to fight each other simultaneously in the same song.
  • Villain Respect: The apparition of Master Xehanort compliments Kairi on how far she's come as a Keyblade wielder, even if she never truly posed a threat to him.
  • Villainous Legacy: Despite his death in Kingdom Hearts III, which marks the end of his tenure as the Big Bad, Master Xehanort continues to have a posthumous influence on the plot moving forward. Not only does an apparition of Xehanort appear within Kairi's heart as the Final Boss, but it turns out the clue to finding Sora lies in a warning he gave Kairi about the world on the "other side" before he first sent her away from Radiant Garden back when she was still a child, something the heroes reckon he'd been researching as late as his apprenticeship to Ansem the Wise.
  • Voice Grunting: Sora, Roxas, Aqua, and Riku all use generic battle cries sourced from previous games when activating Ability Crystals. Ditto for Kingdom Hearts III Sora, who uses III call-outs during the Final Boss fight despite Xehanort noting him to be The Speechless.
  • The Voiceless: The game contains minimal voice acting until the final cutscenes. The only characters who have voiced lines throughout the main portion of the game are the party leaders Sora, Aqua, Riku, and Roxas (and even then their lines are stock audio being reused); the bosses Ansem, Xemnas, and Maleficent; the Final Boss; and the game's narrator, Kairi. This means that none of the additional party members or guest party members have any spoken lines in the game, with the exception of Donald and Goofy, who speak in The Stinger.
  • Wham Shot: During her fight against the memory of Master Xehanort, Kairi's rendered to the ground, Xehanort goes in for the attack...and Sora's Keyblade appears in Kairi's hand.